The recent Oscars presentation showed that there is a market for head covering that’s not a tudung
Left: Gaurav Gupta dress shown at Paris Couture Spring/Summer 2023. Photo: Gaurav Gupta. Right: Tems in Lever Couture. Photo: Getty Images
The red carpet, must trod-on walkway of award shows, has always been a fashion trap. The colour may make those standing on it appear important, but it is, in fact, insidious by nature, ready to ensnare the fashion-clueless star and underscore how foolish they look. In the past, screen idols—and they were—needn’t depend on fashion to the point that their popularity at the award ceremony depended on what they wore. These days, things are, of course, vastly different. So many individuals in the fashion ecosystem are involved. A star cannot simply go to their favourite store and pick what they like. They are expected to make this the opportunity to keep otherwise unoccupied couturiers busy. Or avail themselves as a walking billboard. An what is worn now must shout F.A.S.H.I.O.N. As much is at stake, red carpet newbies try harder, often unaware of what they are really wearing because powerful stylists have more say. As long as you stand out, even if to the detriment of others around you, you have made it. One of them who had us thinking (yes, still) is the singer-songwriter Tems.
Yes, we’re revisiting that dress. Tems, aka Temilade Openiyi, wore a white gown that provided shelter for her head. The partly ruched dress with a thigh-high slit was by the just-over-a-decade-old label, Lever Couture, whose designer is Ukrainian-German, Lessja Verlingieri, known for her over-the-top “hand-sculpted” gowns. What Ms Openiyi wore was part of the label’s spring/summer 2023, revealed last September at the Rakuten Fashion Week in Tokyo. It is similar to the dress—also by Lever Couture—that Cardi B wore on the cover of Essence’s May/June 2022 issue. Ms Verlingieri’s style is hard to define, but she seems to like to manipulate her fabrics by fashioning them directly onto the body’s form. She is partial to extravagant over-the-head extensions, such as the cumulous canopy seen on Tems. Extraneous and distended parts are very much a part of the couture language. But what framed Tems’s head was already seen elsewhere—a continent apart.
In India. But that’s not quite exact enough. To be more precise, Paris, during the couture spring/summer 2023 season. Designer Gaurav Gupta showed for the first time—as a guest member—during the official Haute Couture Week. The collection comprised his signature curvilinear swathes in Indian handloom tissue that swirled around the body and over the head. He, too, called his way with fabric “sculpting”. This dramatic aesthetic was best worn on Aishwarya Rai Bachchan at last year’s Cannes Film Festival in May. The back of that dress that soared skywards was taller than Tems’s head cover. It is not known if the former beauty queen wore the dress at any of the festival’s screening and if she did, if anyone’s view was blocked. Times of India described the Indian actress in the Gaurav Gupta dress as “a phenomenon” while the Delhi-based designer portrayed her as “new-concept Venus” after Botticelli’s famed mid-1480 painting, minus the shell. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s gown was mostly covered by the Indian media. Conversely, Tems’s look went viral. In the end, that’s all that matters.